Creative Class: alternative view

Metropolis Magazine: Why I Don’t Love Richard Florida.

I found Richard Florida’s book an excellent and thought provoking read. I felt that it was a little “broad brush”, but overall captured the essence of what I have seen happening in my professional and social life. Of course, I live smack-bang in the middle of his definition of the Creative Class, so that’s hardly surprising.

After a fair amount of fluff, the article above makes it’s point:

I don’t think there’s a developer alive who doesn’t think that the way to give a slow-moving property some cachet is to install a gallery or a few artists’ studios. Which is to say that I don’t think Florida is wrong. It’s just that his distillation of creativity into the kind of prescription routinely proffered by management consultants makes me fairly sure that what he’s selling is not the virtues of creativity but rather the ingredients of a formula.

It’s been a while since I read the book – but as I remember it Florida cautions, on numerous occasions, that you can not create a formula – that it is authenticity of place that needs to drive change. This, to me, was a big hole in Florida’s argument in fact, but the author of the article seems to have missed those warnings (or is ignoring them for expedience, or I’m remembering them being there when they weren’t). Perhaps the “management consultants”, like so many advertising agencies trying to cash in on the “markets are conversations” and “markets are relationships” vibe, have got it wrong? Surely the disagreement should be with their interpretation, not with Florida’s book?

The hole in Florida’s argument, broadly speaking, is the same hole as the “growth is infinite” argument of capitalism. In the same way that an economy can’t just keep growing infinitely (their has to be a ceiling because the earth and society cannot hold the weight any longer), not everywhere can be “hip and cool” for the Creative Class. After all there’s another 70% of the population (probably more given Florida’s expansive definition). So any “marketing consultant” that thinks they can transform a city/region by applying a boiler plate is going to fail dismally.

The Creative Class is an interesting way to look at how the economic centers over the past decade or so have grown, but it is not a fix-all solution to areas that are suffering. But it does hint at some ways that governments and developers might want to rethink their usual methods of recuscitation. Authenticity, diversity, tolerence. All worthy, and oft-debated, values in their own right, but combined in the right way (dare I say creatively), they can be also be a force for powerful economic change.